Tom Blake

By Tom Blake

On Saturday night, March 7, I had a reunion with an elegant old friend. I’ve written about her before, after seeing her at previous reunions. This reunion was so special, I was moved to write about it.

Don’t get the wrong idea. My life partner, Greta, was at my side. And as a special treat to me, so were my sisters Pam and Christine.

The reunion took place at the intimate and wonderful Poway Center for the Performing Arts, which is located in the quaint city of Poway, about an hour’s drive from South Orange County.

And why was it a reunion for me? Because I’ve known this woman for 43 years, when she was about 21. Her name is Rosanne Cash, a multi-Grammy Award winner and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

And if her last name has a familiar ring, it’s because Rosanne is the eldest daughter of the late Johnny Cash. That connection is how I met her.

In the mid-1970s, when I was the marketing director for the boxcar and caboose restaurant chain Victoria Station, I hired Johnny and worked with him for two years. He was our company spokesperson and sang our radio commercials. I also co-produced with him an album of his train songs titled, Destination Victoria Station.

Country music legend Johnny Cash takes a photo with Tom Blake and sister Pam at Humphreys by the Bay in San Diego, following a concert in July 1989. Photo: Courtesy of Tom Blake

In July 1989, my sister Pam and I were photographed with Johnny, at Humphreys by the Bay in San Diego, after a concert.

When I published Middle Aged and Dating Again, my first book in 1997, Johnny endorsed the back cover with these words:

“In the 20 years I have known Tom Blake, he has become an authority on dating and relationships.”

I’m not sure how Johnny knew that, but I happily accepted his endorsement.

Because my sister Pam was with me on Saturday night, I printed out a copy of that 31-year-old photo of us with Johnny and gave it to Rosanne backstage, after the show on Saturday night.

Rosanne Cash (center) joins Tom Blake, his partner, Greta (right), and his sisters Pam (far left) and Christine, backstage at her March 7 concert in Poway for a photo. Photo: Courtesy of Tom Blake

Minutes later, a new photo was taken of Pam, Chris, Rosanne, Greta and me.

It’s amazing how we change in 31 years.

In the past 10 years, Greta and I have seen Rosanne, along with her husband/co-writer/producer and arranger John Leventhal, in concert four times, including that Saturday.

When Leventhal saw us backstage that night, he said, “And who are you guys?”

I surmised that Rosanne hadn’t briefed John that the Blake clan would be visiting backstage.

The Poway Center for the Performing Arts is a fun place in which to see a concert. It’s small: 797 seats. The ushers are pleasant, friendly and helpful. Michael Rennie, president and CEO of Poway OnStage, greeted us warmly and was accommodating by leading us backstage after the performance.

Check out their website for upcoming shows: powayonstage.org. And, unheard of these days, the parking is free.

The audience was mesmerized by Rosanne. Her voice is clear and beautiful. Her stage presence and mannerisms are gentle and polished. Her songs are personal, sung as if she’s telling a story she experienced.

Leventhal is a master guitar player and joins in on limited vocals. He and Rosanne have been married 25 years. They have fun together on stage. They played without an intermission for 90 minutes.

It’s evident that Rosanne loves the United States; she mentioned unity for our country several times. My sisters were deeply moved by her performance.

She sang “Ode to Billie Joe,” as beautifully as Bobbie Gentry did, when Gentry made it a hit in 1967. At the song’s conclusion, Rosanne said, “That song was recorded 53 years ago, and people are still trying to figure out what Billie Joe was throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

Her rendition of “The Long Black Veil” was spellbinding. She sang one of her dad’s favorites, “Tennessee Flat Top Box” and “Sea of Heartbreak,” an old Don Gibson tune.

She ended the concert with her 1981 hit song “Seven Year Ache.”

The applause brought her and John back for an encore; she sang “Wayfaring Stranger” from the Ken Burns’ 2019 Country Music documentary, a tune her father had also made popular.

Add a future Rosanne Cash concert to your bucket list; it will be one of the most enjoyable 90 minutes of your life.

Her website: rosannecash.com.

Tom Blake is a retired Dana Point business owner and San Clemente resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at findingloveafter50.com. To comment: tompblake@gmail.com.

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